Syria, Syria, Syria… all indications suggest that so much struggle and tragedy for the past two and a half years is about to boil down to some geopolitical wrangling and a reprieve for Assad. The West’s bizarre fixation on the use of chemical weapons has actually probably saved the man from an international onslaught, their surrender deemed sufficient to compensate for those made dead or displaced by conventional arms. Assad’s intent to brutally eradicate any vestige of resistance has taken second place to what the rest of the world deems acceptable means.
A round of applause for Putin, I suppose, he has consummately bitch-slapped his western counterparts in this particular round of diplomatic manoeuvres. His op-ed piece to the New York Times yesterday was like an international victory dance, as the Russian proposal for Syria’s chemical disarmament simultaneously distracted from the core issue of the still raging war and allowed Obama to avoid an embarrassing defeat at the House of Representatives. But everyone gets to look tough and proactive, so yippee-kai-yay.
After the breakneck pace of the last couple of weeks – the clear signs of a chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the regime against a Damascus suburb, followed by rabid pronouncements of imminent action, followed by the decisive gut punch to any such action that was the UK Commons defeat on the motion – it somehow feels like a resolution of sorts is near. I say “of sorts” most generously. Here’s the potential reality we face – Assad loses his chemical weapons but is able to continue prosecuting his war courtesy of Russian and Iranian support, as the fractured movement against his regime is slowly choked out.
Russia maintains its vital Mediterranean ally, replete with warm water ports, while the balance of involvement from other regional nations shifts from military support to the rebels, to sustaining what will surely continue to be a long and painful refugee crisis, bought by Assad, paid for by Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The international community will basically wash its hands of the scene, job done with regards to our arbitrary concern for chemical weapons, and not feeling too bad about the rest because of some decidedly symptom treating humanitarian support, pointless diplomatic pressure tantamount to screaming through sound-proof glass and because of the noxious proliferation of the narrative that Assad is only fighting terrorist Islamists.
What semblance of truth there is in that statement only exists because we stood back two or so years ago and watched Assad and the once more consolidated and honest rebellion open the doors to a broader sectarian nightmare. Would that the hammer had come down then. It seems to me that the catalyst for the current diplomatic route we’re travelling was the imminent threat of force, however stunningly deluded little Dougie Alexander might be, bleating as he his from within the Labour ranks about how they should take credit for all of this. No, rather Labour just managed to throw the whole process into disarray.
Intervention was justified, and only a consummate Milquetoast like Ed Miliband needed more proof… well, actually he didn’t, he just saw a window to beat Cameron for a change. There were more than enough indications that it could have been effective in crippling Assad’s regime. Putin and Assad were always sure to make the argument that intervention could only deteriorate the situation, it being in their deeply vested interests not to see the regime fail, and the general public of the UK and USA were all too willing to believe this after a decade of deeply controversial and largely unsuccessful actions in the Middle-East.
Oh but what about Hans Blix you say? That adherent to the UN, he warned against military action too. Yes well, the UN… an organisation, a vast organisation, with a mandate for self-preservation borne both out of the altruistic mission to hold the world together by the seams, and also by the self-interest of its employees. Military intervention would never have passed the Security Council and so would be necessarily in direct contravention to the UN. It’s ironic that Putin mentioned the League of Nations in his letter to America, as we could all be wondering how much more impotence and ineffectiveness the UN could actually survive at this point.
If nations like the USA, UK or France were constantly required to act without UN consent because of the permanently embedded impediment that is China and Russia on the Security Council, then what’s the point? Bravo, Putin, bravo.
What else is there to say? I guess this is about as much a measure of justice as those Syrians who wanted to be free of Assad are going to get. The justice of being shot, bombed and burned instead of gassed by a tyrant whose crimes somehow haven’t been deemed by the international community as so awful that his mere presence, let alone his continued rule, is as cruel an insult as one can imagine. How goddamned naïve of me.